Staten Island, NY – Just one month after his death in a weather related collision, a Willowbrook man renowned for his kiruv efforts has been voted an inspirational Staten Islander by a county news outlet.
Dovid Winiarz, who also went by the moniker Facebuker Rebbe on social media, was killed in an icy collision in January on his way to a Baltimore kiruv convention, as previously reported on VIN News. When the Staten Island Advance’s online site www.SILive.com launched a contest to name an inspiring Staten Island resident, several of the over 1,100 members of a Facebook group created to honor Winiarz’s memory jumped into action, nominating Winiarz in the contest.
Initially, the Staten Island Advance vetoed the Winiarz nominations, explaining that the contest was limited to living Staten Islanders, but Winiarz’s friends refused to relent, noting that the winner of last year’s contest was fallen Staten Island firefighter Lieutenant Gordon Ambelas. After repeated requests to allow Winiarz into the poll, James Yates, news manager at the Staten Island Advance explained that while the current contest was being handled differently than in previous years, he would make an exception in Winiarz’s case and allow him to be part of the current poll.
In timing that some might consider divinely inspired, as night fell and the Winiarz family marked the shloshim tonight, Dovid Winiarz was named winner of the Staten Island Advance poll, receiving more than 45 percent of the 2,244 votes cast, beating out his nearest competitor by over 19 percentage points.
Shmuel Winiarz described his brother as someone who devoted his life to inspiring others, no matter what their religious affiliation.
“Dovid not only inspired his family and community but he acted on the Jewish belief that every person in the world is worth respect and he inspired every person whose path he intertwined with,” Shmuel Winiarz told VIN News.
Winiarz’s Facebook friends, who ran a virtual shloshim with video remembrances and words of inspiration, were thrilled to hear that Winiarz was the top vote getter in the contest.
“Rabbi Winiarz winning the Staten Island Advance contest was a tribute to the man who touched the lives of so many people,” said Joel Elveson.
“Though the Advance originally only wanted people ‘living’ in Staten Island, Dovid Winarz still lives on in the hearts and minds of the people he met,” added Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz.
Dan Widensky, who wrote several letters to the Staten Island Advance asking them to include Winiarz in their poll, called Winiarz’s win a fitting tribute.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am and how wonderful it feels that Dovid was overwhelmingly elected with almost 50 percent of all the votes cast,” said Widensky. “He deserved it in his life and he deserves it in his death.”
As winner of the contest, Winiarz will be highlighted in an upcoming Staten Island Advance article.